Many of Nelson Auto Rentals clients are international visitors, and not all are accustomed to our unique driving environment. Even if you are experienced  at driving on the left side of the highway, encountering a mob of sheep in your path may well cause you some alarms!

New Zealand does adhere to international driving conventions and there are few if any deviations from laws and rules governing driving in a general sense. New Zealand’s road signs conform to international standards with the exception that you must be aware that speed limits and restrictions are posts in kilometres per hour and NOT nile per hour. Similarly, distances are also posted in kilometres. Getting speeds wrong may incur severe fines and, in extreme cases, impounding of the vehicle…

New Zealand’s “Road Code” is managed and issued by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA). Their website has the road code index which provides  fast access for you to brush up on what you need to know.

The official New Zealand road code is a user-friendly guide to New Zealand’s traffic law and safe driving practices. Read the road code introduction here. This guide is intended for drivers of cars and other light vehicles.  Motorcyclists should read The official New Zealand road code for motorcyclists.

There is also a very good online Driving Test website –  click here

You can purchase copies of New Zealand road codes from NZTA agents and many booksellers – see;  Where to buy a copy of the NZ Road Code

Whilst most countries drive on the right hand side of the road,  New Zealand drives on the left; along with Australia. UK, South Africa, Japan, Thailand and Malaysia. Safely handling a rental car, van or motorcycle on the left hand side of the road requires you to pay close attention to Give Way rules, lane markings and road signage. When negotiating a roundabout in New Zealand you must proceed in a clockwise direction, NOT anticlockwise as you would in countries where driving is on the right hand side of the road! Other differences include;

  • Road centreline markings – New Zealand’s dashed yellow line is the double yellow line in the United Kingdom!
  • Traffic signals – in New Zealand, you must not go through a red light, even if making a left turn as is permitted in some countries.

Holders of a English-language driving licence may drive in New Zealand for up to one year. Otherwise, an International Driving Permit is required, along with the driving licence issued in your home country.

Livestock – Sheep and Cattle

Getting back to that situation where you encounter a mob of sheep of a herd of cattle on the highway…. Here’s how to handle this in a low-stress manner for you, the livestock and the farmer;

1 – Slow down!

2 – If the animals are coming towards you, the safest option is to drive very slowly almost up to them and stop while the farmer and his dogs move the animals past you.

3 – Don’t honk your car horn to scare sheep or cattle out of the way!

3 If the animals are moving away from you, drive slowly up behind them and look for a signal from the farmer to ease slowly past. Most farmers will use their dogs to clear a lane down one edge of the road, allowing vehicles to overtake… Be patient, take some photos…

A little politeness goes a long way, and for many people its an interesting agricultural encounter with an opportunity to see skilled stockmen managing working dogs and livestock…